Sixty-five wins, an emerging Andrew Bynum, and an NBA Championship—all before welcoming defensive stalwart Ron Artest on board in the offseason. And what do the L.A. Lakers have to show for it now?
The Lakers' chances of winning the No. 1 overall seed are shot, their record against the league’s top teams is pedestrian at best—and amid all the rumors and lack of cohesion, this team could be headed for a repeat of the massive team blowup of 2004.
The Lakers have shown signs of excellence—even the potential to be historic—but only in flashes.
How would the Lakers go forward after their second- consecutive start of winning at least seven of their first eight games? By getting stomped into the hardwood by the Denver Nuggets.
How would they respond to capping off their then-10- game winning streak by holding the Utah Jazz to six points in the fourth quarter? Only by losing to them by near double figures three nights later.
How would the Lakers avenge their biggest deficit in a loss this season when Denver came to visit without Carmelo Anthony? By pulling up front row seats to watch Chauncey Billups shoot the lights out beyond the arc and lead his team to a 13-point victory.
The 47-18 record the Lakers are in possession of would be great for most teams in the league—but not the Lakers. Not these Lakers.
Some (myself included) had picked them to win 70 games this year. Instead, they would be fortunate to finish with 60 and remain in possession of the West’s top seed—and that’s sickening.
The Celtics were closer to making a debut on this list than you may think, but they narrowly avoided it because they legitimately seem to be doing all they can. It just seems time has run out on them.
The Lakers have no excuse. They have the best center in the Western Conference, a top-three power forward, a top-three defender, the best sixth man and coach the game has to offer, and a shooting guard named Kobe Bryant.
Why is this not translating into more wins?
Have the Lakers become complacent champions? With the No. 1 overall record out of reach, have they just become disinterested in the regular season? Worse—are there problems in L.A.’s locker room hampering their on-court production?
Either way, the Lakers need to find answers now. They aren’t as far away from following in the Celtics’ footsteps as they may think.